Back on track: re-railed
There's a prominent article on page three of today's Dominion Post that, while it concentrates on a "stoush" between the city council and central Government, is good news for supporters of the Johnsonville rail line. While there have been signs for some time that Ontrack and the government wouldn't support ripping up the tracks, this seems to confirm that rail is safe. It's good to see that the government's new-found green principles might be having an effect!
There are some inaccuracies in the article that I'll address later, such as the implication that keeping the tracks rules out light rail as an option, but for the moment I'll just reproduce the article (which is not online, and not referred to on the council's website) for those without access to the paper.
Transport study is derailed
A year-long $400,000 transport review has been derailed in a stoush between Wellington and the Government over public consultation, with the city's mayor saying submitters will feel betrayed. Transport officials are set to abandon the North Wellington public transport study, after three of four options presented for public feedback were ruled out by the Government.
"The Government has pulled the rug out from our feet," Mayor Kerry Prendergast said yesterday.
A Local Government New Zealand spokesman said it would be the first time such a major consultation had been stopped.
More than 1600 submissions were received as part of the study earlier this year, with strong backing for a busway to replace the rail line. A second proposal to retain the line and upgrade train services also proved popular.
Plans for a light railway or cycle/walkway to replace the railway had less support.
Finance Minister Michael Cullen has said the Government and rail agency Ontrack, which owns the rail corridor, opposed plans to remove the Johnsonville line - effectively ruling out three of the four options.
Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said about $400,000 had already been spent on investigation and public consultation. Those who had made submissions would feel betrayed.
Transport officials from Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington regional council will discuss the North Wellington transport study in a fortnight and are now expected to back plans to buy new trains for the Johnsonville line by 2010.
A technical report found none of the four options offered significant advantages.
Ms Prendergast said the consultation process was required by funding agency Land Transport New Zealand but there was little point continuing it when only one option was possible.
"The most disappointing thing is that we have created huge expectation in the community that we are not going to be able to deliver on."
Both councils have written to Dr Cullen asking for formal confirmation of his view on the study.
A spokesman for Dr Cullen said upgrading the railway was the most cost effective and environmentally friendly option.
"The consultation process was an initiative by the councils. Nobody approached the Government before embarking on this course."
The Government and Ontrack were planning improvements to the railway.
Local Government New Zealand governance manager Mike Reid said the councils were not required to check with the Government or Ontrack before beginning the study.
Consultation was important as it showed councils were accountable to the public and he doubted if Dr Cullen had deliberately sought to undermine the process.
"I suspect that the minister wasn't seeking to intervene but rather give his views."
Greater Wellington chairman Ian Buchanan said Dr Cullen's views reinforced technical advice that none of the four options were particularly strong.
"We should now get on with the rail upgrade."